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  • Writer's pictureChris Butera

My Voiceover Origin Story Part 2: The First Steps

A cowboy in a valley staring at mountain trails.

Last time I wrote about my voiceover beginnings, I discussed what sparked my interest in this unique line of work and why I decided to give it a shot. This time around I’ll be talking about the first steps I made toward making voiceover happen.

If you read my first post about what inspired me to become a voice actor, you know I was a goofy kid with an overactive imagination drawn to the world of voiceover by cartoons. You also know I hadn’t thought of doing it for a living until watching the documentary I Know That Voice and becoming obsessed with it.

If you didn’t, now you know.

Here’s where we left off:

I was working a job I couldn’t stand while listening to Rob Paulsen’s Talkin' Toons podcast to get through the day. I had just purchased Randy Thomas’ book Voice for Hire after making a deal with myself to stop being a chicken if the nearby college I found it in still had it in stock.

They did! I finished it in a few weeks, officially starting my journey as a New York City voice actor!

Cut to a few months later, when I had just gotten fired from the soul-crushing job. I was absolutely terrified of my student loans and what I would do next in my career to get them paid off. And just like that, my voiceover journey came to a grinding halt as quickly as it began.

Looking back, it seems like the universe’s purpose for sticking me with that lousy gig was to make sure I got that book.

That’s my story and I’m sticking to it. Pun intended.

Giving Voiceover a Shot

Female rock climber climbing a wall at an indoor rock climbing facility.

Freshly unemployed, living in my parent’s basement, and not very confident in myself, I kept going back to the I Know That Voice documentary for comfort and finished my first VO read, Voice For Hire in a few weeks. The thought of doing voiceover was the only thing that made me feel good about anything.

After about a month of moping, I decided to give voiceover a shot. I looked up a few studios that offered training and decided on one I thought might be the place to learn from. They seemed to have a good reputation as they'd been around for years. They also had a voiceover evaluation class for 200 bucks. If I got in, that $200 would be used as a credit toward their coaching packages if I signed up within a year.

I went down to the studio on a cold February morning and sat down next to a diverse group of folks considering voiceover for various reasons. For the next several hours, we were put through some script reading and got to play in the booth for quick mock-directed sessions.

A week or so later, I got my evaluation from the bunch: I was approved for the studio’s voiceover training!

Now, I just needed a day job to get some cash together.

Stumbling Blocks

Buffalo blocking the road in a mountain area.

A few months passed, and I eventually landed a gig at a finance publication writing about pension fund investments. Turns out the company wanted to boost its media portfolio with podcasting. I got chatty with the managing director and put together a proposal for voiceover training to help get the podcast off the ground. To my pleasant shock, they approved! I signed up for the voiceover training program immediately.

I was ecstatic to get started in voiceover, but as with most beginnings, there are a few stumbling blocks.

For starters, that $200 credit had an earlier expiration date than I had been initially told by the folks at the studio. I had to sign up within a month of being evaluated. This wasn’t a big deal since my training was on the company dime, but I was definitely peeved by the misinformation.

The program recommendation was another red flag. I had been approved for their recommended three-lesson package, which is too small a package to recommend for a clueless beginner (Each lesson is an hour. Three hours of training does not make a voice actor).

I ended up splitting those lessons between two coaches. I had preferred to work with one coach the whole way through, but it didn’t turn out that way. The lessons were OK but there wasn’t a whole lot to go on.

A Lackluster Experience

The first coach seemed to phone it in. I learned a little but not nearly as much as I felt I should have. The two lessons mostly consisted of reading scripts badly and getting generic “great job do it again” over and over.

At the end of the second lesson, I asked how many more lessons they thought I might need before I was eventually ready to record my demo. They told me I would be good to go after the next lesson. I felt awesome…until their constant scheduling conflicts and cancellations forced me to go with a second coach for the third lesson — the worst of the bunch.

In the third lesson, the new coach showed me some warmup exercises for about 10-15 minutes, rambled on about their career for about 30, and rushed through the script reading in the last 15. After I told them I expected to go longer since they spent so much time talking about themself they seemed surprised.

I then reiterated that the previous coach had told me that I only needed another lesson before being “demo ready.” Based on the little they had seen they gave me a harsh truth: I needed three months of training, not three sessions! They then proceeded to give me a recording of our session to take notes and review, another thing the first coach did not do.

I never stepped foot in that place again (Except that one time when I was in the neighborhood and had to use the bathroom).

Discouraged, distressed, and disgruntled, I decided to take matters into my own hands. Little did I know that these early decisions were potential career killers!

Looking for a friendly, conversational voice for your project? Fill out my project contact form or shoot me an email to get in touch today!


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